The magic school

Find out about Brazil's national soccer players' favourite tricks.

The game is his life. Every shot gives him strength, every one-on-one new energy. His speed and flare on the ball baffles his opponents and boosts his confidence.

Do you consciously think when playing football or do you just act on instinct?

KAKÁ: If you don't think, you won't get far on the pitch. Normally you have to think first, then act. It's best when your brain and feet work together, decide and react in a split second. From the outside, it can look impossible. Sometimes I'll ask myself “How did I do that?”

What does a player need to be able to score a goal or set up a perfect pass?

KAKÁ: You have totrain hard. Apart from that, you have to believe in your skills. You have to trust that the ball will reach your teammate. If you have doubt, you can't set up a perfect pass.

Kaká’s outside trap

  • This is the kind of trick Brazilians learn at playschool. Position yourself left of an oncoming ball and shift your weight to your left supporting leg.
  • Rotate your hip inwards and flick out your right foot to collect the pass. The hovering foot needs to be strong yet supple enough to cushion the ball – the higher you catch the ball the better, as it gives you more time to control it.
  • As you collect, redirect the ball towards the ground with the outside of your foot and nudge it forward as it lands and you begin your stride.
  • Keep your arms aloft and outstretched throughout for balance. Resist the urge to flick your opponent two fingers as you run past him.

Julio Baptista came to Spain as a midfield defenceman and scored 38 goals in his first 63 games. "The Beast" shares his secrets.

What's the magic of Brazilian soccer?

BAPTISTA: We Brazilians aren't as methodical as the European players. We surprise our opponents, do things that no one is expecting - creativity is the basis of Brazilian magic.

How do you manage to play creatively under the incredible pressure of international football?

BAPTISTA: The most important thing is to remain calm and confident. I always try to play my own game; that way I can be as creative as I want and no one can talk me into doing anything I don't want to do.

Brazilian twist
Julio Baptista swings his dancing leg - and floors every player.

  • Place the ball on the in-step of your right foot. Find your balance and hold your body as upright and relaxed as possible.
  • Using your right foot, bring the ball straight up in the air until it's about level with your head.
  • Let the ball come back to the ground right between your feet. (The distance between your feet should be equal to the width of the ball.) Clamp the ball between both ankles and then quickly kick it up your legs so that it ends up behind your calves.
  • Using your left leg, kick the ball up and to the right behind your body. At the same time, turn your upper body slightly to the left, and direct your left heel up towards your butt. And then, the crowning achievement: turn again to the right, towards the ball, and catch it with your right in-step. Ready for the next dance?

A pupil of Pele, Robinho talks about his skills and the dominance of the Brazilians.

What's the secret to your darting moves?

ROBINHO: As a child I had a ball at my feet from the moment I could walk. I've played soccer my whole life - on the street, indoors and on the pitch. My dribbling skills are not the result of years of training, but a gift from God.

Pele discovered you when you were 15 years old and mentored you. What's it like to meet a soccer legend?

ROBINHO: I dreamt of meeting Pele as a child. So, of course, it was very special when it happened for real. I've learnt a lot from him - above all, not to be afraid of making mistakes and to play soccer because of a passion for the game, not the money.

Do you have another passion besides soccer?

ROBINHO: Music is my other passion - I play the samba drums. I've got rhythm in my blood, which actually helps me tremendously in soccer.

The step over
Samba fan Robinho loves this classic move that makes you look great and your opponent look like an old bullet.

  • Stand relaxed, your left foot in front. Hold the ball between the heel of your left foot and the ankle of your right.
  • Lift your right foot slightly so that the ball moves over your left ankle to the inner side of your left lower leg. Tilt your upper body in the direction of your stride.
  • In a jumping movement, swiftly lift your left leg. Moving your upper body to the left, catapult the ball into the air with your left ankle.

FACTOID: The perfect night in
Chances are your good lady will be the first to point out that an evening in front of a Chiefs and Pirates game is about as sexy as the thought of Eugene Terreblanche in his underwear.

But keeping the remote firmly in your hands could actually pay dividends (any excuse). According to a group of Italian researchers, watching soccer can actually be good for your sex life.

Apparently, their studies found that almost three-quarters of Italian couples who watched il bel gioco(the beautiful game) together said it improved their love lives. With 18 percent claiming watching games together made them talk more (at half time, we hope) and 13 percent reckoning it increased their bedroom action.

A word of warning though: apparently the signoras admitted they also fantasised about stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Beckham.

For more fitness, sex and nutrition stories visit Men’s Health.

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